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  • 08.25.16

WhatsApp breaks promise, will now share user data with Facebook

Facebook-owned over-the-top messaging app WhatsApp has long been considered one of the “good” tech companies when it comes to privacy. All of its messages are encrypted, which makes them much harder to be intercepted by third parties. More importantly, the company always touts how careful it is with user data. Now, a new update is raising eyebrows.

WhatsApp has suddenly changed course—as part of its new privacy policy it will now share users’ phone numbers with parent company Facebook, reports the Associated Press. This will help make the app more of an ad-driven product by creating better ways to personalize ads. Though small, this shift a huge change for the company, and could significantly alter how privacy advocates think of the product. 

Back in 2014, when the company was first bought by Facebook, privacy organizations feared the information that could be shared between the companies. The company has said for years that it protects users’ privacy and never planned to change the way it handled data since it first began. Here’s a section from Ars Technica‘s coverage two years ago

Facebook getting its hands on WhatsApp data is decidedly a privacy concern, but how immediate that concern is lies in how you interpret Koum’s post-sale blog post. The founder promised that “nothing” will change. In one sense, this means that WhatsApp will continue to keep customer phone numbers, metadata, and their contacts’ information off its servers, and it will continue to not store messages. In this case, Facebook will not actually have access to anything, because there are no logs.

WhatsApp users, it turns out, can opt out of this info sharing. The catch is they have to actually read the whole terms of service (which most people don’t do):

CGW